Just a couple of days ago I wrote a slightly off-topic post after noticing how potentially debilitating my older son’s backpack had become. I asked a bunch of questions ranging from why backpacks have gotten so heavy over the years to what we can do about it.
I had no idea that today, September 17, is officially National School Backpack Awareness Day, promoted by the American Occupational Therapy Association. So thank you, AOTA, for calling attention to a study that found six out of 10 students between the ages of 9 and 20 reported chronic back pain related to their cumbersome backpacks.
They can’t either lessen homework, concentrate homework on one particular subject per night, or make schools paperless– I guess they’re not in charge of that — but AOTA does have some tips I’m sure they won’t mind my listing for you:
- Never let a child carry more than 15 percent of his body weight. (But what if his homework necessitates all the heavy textbooks? Still, check bullet #4.)
- Load the heaviest items closest to the child’s back, at the very back of the pack.
- Arrange books and materials so they won’t slide around in the pack.
- Check what your child carries to school and brings home. Make sure the items are necessary to the day’s activities. (Great idea. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I think my 11-year-old uses his backpack as a locker.)
- On days the backpack is too loaded, your child can hand carry a book or other item.
- If the backpack is too heavy, consider using a book bag on wheels if your child’s school allows it. (I can’t imagine a school requiring students to carry too-heavy books wouldn’t allow adaptation like this. If they don’t, please let me know and I’ll start a movement to forward OT, PT and medical bills to the school district–for each student’s whole life.)
For more tips on backpack safety, visit the AOTA Backpack Strategies page.